“Paral·lel 62 is an opportunity to broaden our options and to open people's imaginations to other dynamics”

Interview with Anna Cerdà i Callís, Director of Paral·lel 62.

12/11/2022 - 13:56 h - Culture and leisure Ajuntament de Barcelona

Interview with Anna Cerdà i Callís, Director of Paral·lel 62. We talked about the new municipal facility, cultural rights and the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) management model.

A very basic question but a very important one. What is Paral·lel 62?

Above all, it is a change in the management model of a facility that has never been fully understood as a public facility, and now we want to finish making this building, owned by the municipality, a resource at the service of the general public around music, but not just that. It’s a space built with the physical shape of a theatre. It has a very large theatre and a really small hall, where activities related to the world of performance are held, mainly focused on music but also other fields: theatre, live radio, stand-up comedy, etc. That will carry on but our intention with Paral·lel 62 is to go much further than that and be more things at the same time. So we’ll do other things that won’t just be putting on concerts or plays, beyond what happens on stage. And the other mission, which also stems from the will and knowledge, experiences and challenges of the people who are behind us, is to grow this idea of a situated project. How can we be useful to Raval? What interactions can we have with Poble-sec?  What does Barcelona need? What creation space network is there? How can we help? What’s needed? What’s superfluous? In other words, do a little organising and not so much inventing a lot of new projects.

How did the project come about and why?

The building has been municipally owned since 2005. Last winter, the public tender came out with a slightly different programme, with a much more public and open character. So the requirements set by the City Council already include indicators that have to be developed, structured, and that is where we will have to do the follow up. There’s much more of an emphasis on the work of linking with educational projects, with the neighbourhood.. When we saw the perspective of those terms and conditions, we felt a lot easier, that they were for us. We saw it was a big project, which we didn’t have at the time, and what we had to do was to join together to have enough muscle to carry it out: to keep this place running and to start all the projects around it, above and below, which may not be so visible at first glance, but which are also very important.

How are you building your relationship with the local area and how are you networking with it?

Our background is more in crafts than industry, and if we have muscle, it’s in networking with our diverse realities. This dynamic of working with and for and from the area is really clear, something we’ve already taken on board. That makes contacts much easier.

The other thing is that Raval is a super-organised neighbourhood. There are lots of entities which are quite well organised and protect each other quite well. Now we look for points where connections already exist, obviously. We try not to dismantle things that are already organised, we put ourselves at their service. When there are places where there are dynamic entities or people, it is very easy to join, because there is an energy which is already circulating.

We get all kinds of requests, from very standard requests, such as those from agents who are not promoters in the use of the venue, who ask us if they can hire it, to initiatives that require more support. With the latter we want to do a very honest and professional job. Even if you are an association and you’re amateurs, we’ll treat you in a professional manner when it comes to putting on what we decide will go on here. We want to be transparent, and the idea is to treat all requests in the same way, even though some might require more dedication and support.

One of the new features of Paral·lel 62 is its horizontal management. How does that work?

Horizontality is not a place you reach and settle in but a way of doing things, a path, a route. In that sense, what’s happening is really cool: different ways of doing things are being mixed together but we are finding the common modus operandi that allows us to operate in a very agile, professional and quick way. In other words, the place has to run smoothly, whatever happens, and at the same time a series of alliances are formed that go at a different pace and require much more coming together, exchanging, mutual learning.

So, what we’re doing is a mix, without losing sight of the idea. The company behind this new project is formed of several companies with a diverse range of people. Some of these companies already work on a horizontal basis and at the same time they are also entities that work in a type of sector that requires direct action. In other words, we don’t spend the day holding meetings. We spend the day working, preparing roadmaps, drawing up budgets, managing invoices, welcoming artists, completing technical schedules. The criteria and technical opinions of the technicians from the theatre hall team, who have been working here for years, count a lot because they are the ones who have the practical and direct experience of this venue, the ones who often know the promoter first-hand because they have been working there for years. In other words, horizontality is not only the simple idea of holding lots of meetings, but something that applies to all processes. There are times when we share things, talk about them and when there’s a problem, we’ve activated an assessment protocol and anything that hasn’t gone well is shared. We try to understand horizontality in a way that is not naive or childish; we try to de-hierarchise information as well.

Paral·lel 62 also stands out because it adopts SSE values. How do you operate in that sense? Are you aware of what that means for the city in general?

It’s a complex project because it’s like a cake with lots of layers. When we talk about the SSE, we always say we want it to form the base, permeating everything. Like the principles of intercooperation, of making consumption more ethical, as local as possible, so that the savings we generate can be traced and we can track how this money is circulating…

We are now building some progressive movements, but they are already going beyond coordinating all the services that a space like this needs and mobilises towards the world of the Social and Solidarity Economy and, if possible, local and ultra-local. In other words, if we can ensure that the maximum number of workers at the theatre hall are from the neighbourhood, for us, that means we are already in that dynamic. It’s not about looking for the SSE label and that’s all, but rather that it takes a very objective, practical, tangible form.

We have not set percentages or specific objectives for any role, because we believe that we have to join forces and that we are also aware of the role we play as a bit of laboratory, as a pilot test. We believe that this is an opportunity to broaden our options and to open people’s imaginations to other dynamics, but that this can be replicated, in a thousand different ways and scales, in other projects.

What is the link then with cultural rights?

No doubt everybody would agree that culture is a right. Doing it, receiving it, enjoying it, studying it. But here you come up against day-to-day routine. We are trying to create the dynamics to make it possible. It’s quite mind-boggling, because just by trying to ease the way things work a little, just by virtue of the fact we are already a very tight-knit group of groups, each with their own families and alliances, we already have a series of proposals, demands and ideas that break down some of the barriers. We have welcomed, promoted or hosted activities that have appealed to the Taiwanese, Brazilian and Argentinian communities, the trap music crowd, but also people who want comedy in Catalan. In other words, a series of things are already happening that are going to be the translation of this: that everyone can have their place and that people understand that being public is also an active role. Kind of demystifying this whole idea of the artist and the audience, the genius who comes to put on a show who you then applaud and then off you go. We have created formats that change the dynamic a bit and everything happens in the stalls, for example. That’s already taking place and what we want is to put more energy into it.

When you say “music and other performing arts disciplines”, what do you mean?

Hybridising disciplines is a thing that has been absolutely normal for many years. The boundaries between theatre, the visual arts, performance, music… are often very blurred, luckily. We’re very open here to shows that are not conventional, where there’s more to them than guitar, bass, drums, wham, bang, and that’s all. The other thing is that we want to open up to sectors, sub-sectors, genres and disciplines that are very important in the city but which, perhaps in terms of creative or training spaces, or exhibition spaces, or just meeting points, don’t have so many spaces.

In the end, the ideal would be for people to buy tickets off you with their eyes shut. To say, if they do that, I’ll go because I know what they do is good. What does that good mean for us? The content will be interesting, obviously, but also how it is presented. That is, if you know the staff are well trained in welcoming the audience, that we will try to ensure the new staff we take on, depending on the tasks, are from the neighbourhood and, in passing, will tell you a few things about where you are from. You see the bars have fair-trade soft drinks… that also creates a certain kind of audience experience, which we want to be different from that of other venues.

Paral·lel 62 is also linked with the  Cases de Música Network. What is a “Casa de Música” and what does your relationship mean?

The Cases de Música Network is an initiative that goes back many years and is spread around almost the entire country. The idea is for Barcelona to join it and close the network a little, so it reaches everywhere. It’s a public-private initiative, that is, private-driven with public support. In each municipality where there is a centre, there is a private promoter who had certain concerns and had detected a number of needs that were not being met in their locality. Then, the support of the corresponding local council or Provincial Council, and the Catalan Government, makes it possible, by using and optimising the infrastructure and technical resources of a venue or space that was originally for exhibition purposes, to do other things besides that, in this framework of support for creation and training.

The Cases de la Música work in a very organic and well thought-out way. They network and share everything, but at the same time they specialise. One network is more concerned with training issues and shares initiatives with others, while the other is more concerned with grants and support for creation, and generates dynamics to which the others adhere. At Paral·lel 62, we are seeing what role we can play from here, whether we are more of a loudspeaker, or more of a proposer.

Barcelona is a very active city, it already has a network of creation centres, it has a series of facilities, mobilised entities which we clearly don’t want to duplicate or overlap with. Instead, we’ll see where we can do this linking, connecting work. On a practical level, what will happen is that any Cases de la Música Network activities that did not have a place to hold a big event will now have a more visible venue.

Finally, what would you highlight about Paral·lel 62?

It’s a project with a lot of sharing. One of the things that excites me, and here I am speaking personally, is the support we give each other. There is a lot of respect for the work of others, there is a lot of sensitivity to ensure that people are comfortable, feel at ease. The conditions in which things are done are very important to us and we would like this to come across. What’s more, we want to be useful, we want our time in this space to be useful for everyone; so that when we leave, there will be good things with no going back; that we will have created dynamics and opened up new ways of doing things.